Preview: Puppet Rakugo

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Where: The Butterfly Club

204 Bank Street, South Melbourne

When: June 14–17

Call: 9690 2000


Preview: Stephen A Russell

IN her canary yellow kimono and flapper-like pearl coloured headpiece, Showko, a professional puppet rakugo performer from Osaka, shines against the deep red curtains of the tiny Butterfly Club stage.

Rakugo is a 400-year-old Japanese storytelling tradition using a silk handkerchief and folding fan. Not content with sticking to the old ways, Showko chose her master, Shofukutei Kakushow, because he created his own version using hand-made puppets.

Getting his attention wasn’t easy. “You knock on their door and ask, ‘can I be your protégé, please, please’ and usually master says no 100 times,” she reveals. “You have to convince him by showing your guts.”

When Showko discovered Kakushow was travelling to London, she flew over a day earlier and surprised him at the airport. “He was so shocked, he had to accept me,” she says.

She has trained with Kakushow for a decade. He was the one who gave her the name Showko, which means laughing child, suiting her fun performance.

Her show features beautiful puppets including a one-eyed monster in blue and a no-face creature in purple, the traditional fan and hanky and a little trick she calls bamboo magic.

Looking for all the world like a sushi mat, Showko’s ingenious manoeuvres transform it into myriad shapes, from a leaping fish to Melbourne’s Arts Centre spire.

Showko moved to Melbourne with her husband and son at the end of last year and this is her first major show in Australia.

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